Unusual vocal style is perfect fit for early-twentieth century music

By Louise Sproule

August 25, 2018

Just saying: if you love early-twentieth-century music and are up for time travel, this might be the concert for you.

Another series of Home Routes live music concerts begins on September 30 and first up is Meredith Axelrod. If you find her name alone intriguing, you should know that her musical repertoire promises to be the same. Described as delightfully engaging and unassumingly comic, Meredith Axelrod envisions the limitless potential of early twentieth century music, whether it be Ragtime, Music Hall, Pop Standard, Boogie Woogie, Tin Pan Alley, String band, Jazz, Country, Blues or even Jug Band music, and embodies the spirit that brought the music into existence in the first place. Her vocal style is unusual, probably because she learned to sing by listening to how folks did it a century ago – through the medium of cylinders and 78-rpm records.

The dominant theme throughout her expansive repertoire, is that, whatever the genre, these are songs she learns from the original sources (records and / or sheet music) which were released between the 1890s and the 1930s. Part of the allure of old-time music, indeed any music throughout the history of recorded music, is hearing the original recordings as played and sung by the original performers in their heyday, loving what they’re doing and doing it because it means something to them in that moment, never because of nostalgia, and Meredith brings the same unbridled passion, earnest devotion and candid vitality to all of her music; she has found possibility and joy in the treasures of cultural folklore.

Axelrod demonstratively loves the life she leads, thriving in varied musical and performance settings. She often partners with string virtuoso Craig Ventresco; they perform at venues and festivals that include the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, West Coast Ragtime Festival and Blind Boone Early Jazz Festival. In addition to playing solo shows, Meredith appears in myriad cooperatives: with her own hot jazz band, her own string band, in partnership with solo act dynamo Frank Fairfield, and often with the 60s Folk / Jug Band legend, Jim Kweskin…. She has also performed with Dan Hicks, Maria Muldaur, Geoff Muldaur, Ramblin’ Jack Eliot, David Grisman, Cindy Cashdollar, Bill Keith, Terry Zwigoff, Sonny Leyland, Robert Crumb and the Cheap Suit Serenaders at favorite venues: The Great American Music Hall, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, and Freight and Salvage. She tours domestically and internationally. On this tour, she will be accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Alex Andrews.

One reviewer says: “There are a lot of phone quality videos on YouTube where she’s being drowned out by people talking, but she’s got a great voice, she’s a delightful oddball, and a total goddess. Her name is Meredith Axelrod, and she does old songs from the 20s, and not the ones you’d recognize either, it’s mostly deep cuts, and she plays with a wide variety of no different people, but the best ones are when it’s just her, or her and Craig Ventresco, who is a monster guitar player (he did the score to the Crumb documentary, and has some other solo stuff out), and better still when she’s playing in her kitchen so you can hear it properly. I’d love to have a not-too-overproduced LP of all her best songs. She’s fantastic.” – Nick Schultz

Axelrod will sing and play guitar on Sunday, September 30, beginning at 7 p.m. at Arbor Gallery Cultural Centre in Vankleek Hill.

Here is how Home Routes concerts work: independent performs travel a circuit, hosted at the homes of people who have signed up for a particular circuit, which usually consists of six concerts taking place during several months’ time. Performers are accommodated at hosts’ homes overnight and often perform at house concerts. An admission fee is charged and all of the admission fees goes to the performers, who also can sell their CDs at concerts.

In this case, host Pat Deacon books the Arbor Gallery venue for the actual concerts, although she accommodates the performers overnight and provides meals to them at her home.

You can purchase tickets for $20 each, or assemble a group and buy 6 for $100. Tickets are available at The Review offices in Vankleek Hill at 76 Main Street East or at the door. Arbor Gallery is located at 36 Home Avenue in Vankleek Hill. The doors open at 6:30 p.m. But note that advance booking is recommended as this is a limited-seating venue. Email: or call 613-676-2829.